The Critics Respond, Part Fifty-Three

The joke’s on her: I’ve already been hit by a fully-loaded tractor once, in March of 1988! And look at me driving pretty much every day in spite of that!

Did you, my treasured reader, know that I left Road&Track almost a year ago? If you read Road&Track‘s social media, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that. They’re still republishing my work a few times a week. Who can blame them? I signed a contract which allows Hearst to republish in perpetuity, and frankly they’d be stupid not to. Saturday’s re-pop of my 2014! article about keeping trucks out of the left lane generated more comments, likes, and shares than everything in the two days surrounding it, combined. This reinforces my Zaphod Beeblebrox perspective that I was the greatest thing to ever happen to that magazine, by the way.

There are a few drawbacks to this narcissism-engorging state of affairs, however. The first is that I’m not getting paid any more for these columns. Like the Beatles masters or a Memphis Minnie song, my work keeps changing hands and making money for people long after it leaves my keyboard. People would rather read something I wrote five or six years ago than check out the latest work from Bob, Chris, Mack, or any of the other luminaries currently holding down the fort in New York City. I am subsidizing their Brooklyn-hipster lifestyles with my immense, limitless talent, a benign god showering clicks on them while they shudder in the darkness of total obscurity. Every re-pop is a notarized affirmation of my unpaid, but also undeniable, superiority. I’m basically their dad or something. It’s The House That Jack Built.

Oh, there’s also the problem that I keep getting email from R&T readers. Like, a lot of it. And I have to read it, because I take my duty to the readers seriously. It’s enough to make me turn my GMail notifications off, because I’ll pick up 50-100 notifications every time one of my re-pops re-stirs the passions of whatever readers didn’t see it the previous dozen times it was re-popped. Thankfully, sometimes they put the bulk of their message in the subject line, as was the case above.

It’s a common trope of female Jalopnik writers to complain about the sexist hate mail they get. It’s their staunch belief that men don’t get hate mail, that it’s something very special which only happens to empowered female autojournalists who threaten the fragile masculinity of the people who pay their salaries by tirelessly clicking on all their Amazon Anker Powerbank Kinja Deals Of The Day. Were that true, it would save me a lot of annoyance — but it’s not. I get all the stuff they get, with one particular addition: a significant percentage of my readers make it plain that they will be kicking my ass the minute they see me on the street. Luckily for me, nothing blends into the background of pedestrian traffic like a 250-pound, six-foot-two man with armpit-length hair and an array of neon-colored clothing, so these ass-kickings have yet to arrive. I also get a lot of “I wish you would die,” largely because I don’t think Americans would line up around the block to pay $28,995 for a one-liter Suzuki Jimny that can’t quite do 80mph up a mild grade.

I don’t publish or discuss this hate mail on a frequent basis because I don’t get off on victimization, real or imagined, the way some other people appear to. In the case of “Ms Miller 1985”, however, I’m going to make an exception. Why? It’s simple: I’m a bit daunted by what appears to me to be a relatively large disparity between the subject of my column (the idea that trucks in America could stay in the right lane, the way they do in Europe) and the punishment she’s envisioned for me as a consequence (being run over by a truck and paralyzed). Not that this sort of hyper-agitated discourse isn’t common on, say, 4Chan, but in this case the writer is a real person with a real life who thought that her Saturday afternoon would be best spent in sitting down and composing a disturbingly illiterate paean to my devoutly-wished-for crippling-via-tractor-trailer. Not because I’ve hurt anyone, or advocated anyone’s genocide, or even insulted her personally. Because I think we should align our highway laws with Europe’s. That’s why she wants me to spend the rest of my life in a motorized wheelchair.

Let’s note for the records that Ms. Miller’s proposed solution was a bit more extreme than that contained in most of this weekend’s e-haul. Many of my critics simply suggested that I spend a week or so covering the open road with them. They seemed to feel that I would empathize with their situation, were I given the chance to experience it first-hand. Maybe I’ll take one of them up on it at some point — it would make for a fascinating story. In the meantime, however, I’ll refer you, my cherished readers, to this brilliant account of a year spent as a long-haul trucker.

We arrived back in Murray, Kentucky, where Paschall’s front office was. After a day of waiting on site, I was called in. The man who fires people folded his hands and sighed at me, speaking with a southern tiredness.
“You fall asleep at the wheel?” he finally asked.
I said yes.
“Well, that guy,” he said, nodding to Chuck, who was standing outside. “He’s just…”
“I know,” I said.
“Are you okay?”
He sighed again. I was not among the first thousand drivers to come through here. “I’m going to write a book someday about all the shit I’ve seen.” He was looking through the wall. “It’s just… somebody’s got to give these people a second chance. Or I guess not. But we do.”
I walked out of the office, still, somehow, employed.

Good stuff. The irony is that MSMILLER1985 has a bit of a point in her suggestion that I get hit by a truck. As you saw in last week’s Roundup, collisions between trucks and cars happen a lot, and it’s the “little people” who bear the medical brunt of this interaction by a ratio of something like six to one. I’m not surprised by this. The Mack driver who dipped onto the shoulder and ran sixteen-year-old me and my Free Agent Limo down like a dog was completely unhurt by the interaction. He puked when he saw me, but five minutes later he was right as rain.

I was not right as rain. They put me back together without using all the pieces; slivers of leg bone, ligaments, memories, a square foot of skin, eleven pints of blood, all left on the emergency-room floor. It wasn’t the first puke-inducing injury I’d had, and it would be far from the last. Yet I’m here, doing my thing, riding my bike, racing my car, wearing shell cordovan perforated bluchers by Crockett&Jones. Is it any wonder that I’ve acquired the conviction that I will be as immortal as my writing? Perhaps more so.

In the darkest hole, you’d be well advised
Not to plan my funeral ‘fore the body dies

Or maybe not. I could be wrong. The next truck to hit me might finish the job. Or another way; I could crash my Kwacker, catch a rock to the head on a double-black-diamond MTB trail, wake up tomorrow with a constellation of tumors in my body. Have no fear: I will live on in the hearts of the women who have loved me and the feckless dweebs who deride me. Not to mention that — of course — you’ll always be able to find me on the social-media pages of Road&Track.

50 Replies to “The Critics Respond, Part Fifty-Three”

  1. AvatarSteve Taylor

    The original idea for the interstate road system was to haul troops and war material to the deep water ports to support the war effort, It should be handy in that respect when the new civil war breaks out between the Republicans and the Leftists/socialists.

  2. AvatarJohn Van Stry

    She obviously hasn’t studied any history either. The interstates were NOT built for interstate commerce. Oh, they get used for that, but their primary reason, and the only reason that the government built them, was for war.

    100 percent for war. Bridges have to be how high? High enough for a tank on a trailer. Interstates go where? To all the borders first and foremost.

    The problem was, during WW2 the government realized that they had NO WAY to move supplies around inside the USA in case of war, and they had no way to move things from one part of the country to one of the borders to support any war effort. The rail roads weren’t up to the job, and were easy to shut down.

    THAT is why we have an interstate.
    To put it bluntly, It’s a weapon.

    • AvatarWhiskeyRiver

      Mr. John nails it. Additionally, every interstate has a straight piece of road without overhead bridges every five miles long enough to land a cargo plane and take off again. It’s pure military in origin and the laws are still in place to close the entire interstate system to civilian traffic if need be in time of war.

    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      It could be an urban legend dating back to the “duck and cover” days of the Cold War, but i was told that curves and banks of the Interstate highways were designed to allow a semi tractor to easily haul an ICBM at 70 mph.

      At the same time that the Eisenhower administration pitched the Interstate highway system for defensive military needs, it was clear that interstate commerce was part of the picture.

      Speaking of which, Ms Miller 1985 should know that when I drive my little Honda Fit to Chicago to cover the auto show there, or to Nashville for Summer NAMM to display my electric harmonica, I’m engaging in interstate commerce.

      • AvatarNoID

        I’m not confident the U.S. military possessed trucks capable enough to haul ICBMs (or anything) at 70 mph back when we commissioned the interstate highway system.

    • AvatarGreg Hamilton

      I also believe that one of the reasons the former Soviet Union did not have any interstate per se was that it would blunt any invasion from enemy forces. Any attacker would have to travel great distances and could be worn down. It is interesting how two different superpowers have two different strategies.

      • AvatarRick S

        The difference is probably due to geography. We are on a separate continent from our potential enemies (Canada, Mexico, and Central/South America don’t count-we could kick their butts without even trying: yuck yuck).

        • Avatar-Nate

          NASA $pent a lot of $ developing a pen that worked in zero gravity .

          Russian cosmonauts used pencils .

          I remember hearing how easy Vietnam was going to be too, so many good Men never came home .


          • Avatar-Nate

            I was responding to Greg’s comment : “It is interesting how two different superpowers have two different strategies.”

            He commented on how different cultures address issues .

            No more than that .


          • Avatardumas


            There’s an interesting conclusion to the pen/pencil challenge in space. After NASA canceled their space pen project owing to rising costs, they ended up sourcing their pens from a company that had already figured it out. Paul Fisher had developed a new pen that worked in all sorts of conditions and even in zero gravity. It had two advantages over pencils- one, it was permanent, and the second was it did not generate graphite dust that could over time get in the filters (or potentially break and leave bits of pencil floating around the capsule).

            What’s nice is that the Fisher Space Pen is still made in the USA, and I’ve found it handy for all sorts of writing tasks.

          • AvatarJohn Van Stry

            They couldn’t use pencils in American spacecraft. Graphite conducts electricity, that stuff floating around in the cabin (from sharpening and even just using pencils) would have shorted out numerous systems.
            That’s why we didn’t use pencils.

          • AvatarGreg Hamilton

            Speaking of cosmonauts here is a documentary on Vladimir Ilyushin son of the famous Russian airplane designer and supposedly the first Russian in space. I think you might like it.

      • AvatarPanzer

        Also, the USSR was far too vast to support the an interstate style system despite having a similar population to the US

  3. AvatarPatrick-Bateman!


    As an owner of a 2019 Suzuki Jimny, I don’t wish anything bad for you in 2020. It is a great city car, but I think you are correct, in the US market, it would be afforded the same market acceptance as the brown, manual, diesel wagon, which every motoring enthusiast proclaims to want to purchase, but if available would never sell, as all these enthusiasts buy second hand.

    Mine is a 1.5 litre manual and I feel mean trying to exceed 69 miles per hour in it.

  4. AvatarWill

    Hmmm… I recall you advocating trucks stay out of the left lane, not into the left lane.

    Also, “common defense” not “interstate commerce” was the constitutional justification for federal funding in 1956.

  5. AvatarNewbie Jeff

    On R&T… I’m a pretty loyal reader but I’m wavering. The product went to absolute shit as soon as they moved to NY. Lots of glaring editing room mistakes, the same photograph appearing twice and then the wrong caption on the page (Smith’s F1 article, I believe). The very next issue a caption referenced two NA Miatas, a well-used beater and a well-preserved example, but only one in the picture. Then Smith (who I adore) writes the piece he’s been apparently been dying to publish, lecturing the car enthusiast community on climate change while driving a truck through Glacier and hating on other people driving trucks through Glacier (yup, sounds like a climate activist).

    I figured all of this had to do with the NY move. If hipsters are indeed running the shop, it all makes sense. Probably a good thing they don’t publish the readers’ letters anymore…

    • AvatarRyan

      This most recent iteration of R&T has been not good (to say the least). After many years, I’ve canceled my subscription.

      Hopefully Zach Bowman ends up at a better outlet. He’s the only one on their current roster that I really care to read.

      • AvatarPanzer

        Im not a fan of the Okulski era design either, much too bland. The photography on the wolfkill era was so good I could almost smell the workshops being photographed..

    • Avatardejal

      I dumped R&T because of Smith. Feel his writing is too pretentious. Different strokes for different folks. Didn’t know about climate lecturing. His stinks just like the rest of us, but he comes across that he begs to differ.

    • AvatarWheeTwelve

      “Probably a good thing they don’t publish the readers’ letters anymore…”

      Maybe they don’t get any letters anymore. You have to have readers, in order for readers to send in letters…

  6. AvatarMark D. Stroyer

    I work as the junction between those who drive trucks and the dairy industry. It is astounding how frequently those tasked with driving main battle tanks at highway speeds fail to comprehend basic instructions like “pull around to the driveway” and “don’t park your truck blocking seven doors and then leave.”

  7. AvatarPaul M.

    Working for Road and Track or Car and Driver, in some way, can be the one final exclamation point on one’s auto writing career. In auto writing business, in my opinion as a casual long time reader of car magazines and sites, is like working for New York Times and Wall Street Journal. There is at least a bit of restraint and executed journalistic professionalism by those two publications. They hire some experience.

    So in final analysis, by working there, you had arrived. For some of us that followed you on Truth about cars, you were already legit. But to casual observer (as much as a casual observer reads C&D and R&T), you are now mainstream. I mean outside those publications, does your dentist office carry any other car magazine (assuming they still carry car magazines)?

    So, let them re-publish your articles, it is good for you and your name.

    I do agree with you on the whole truck thing though. Even a minor accident with a big truck turns into a major one, So on highways with more than two lanes they should stay on right two most lanes. Problem is, in big cities like Atlanta, where we have highways with more than four lanes, there are also many cars that weave in and out of traffic to get ahead and really are dangerous to themselves and big trucks. And for the record, I think majority of big truck drivers are very good drivers.

  8. Avatardavelemi

    “I don’t publish or discuss this hate mail on a frequent basis because I don’t get off on victimization, real or imagined, the way some other people appear to.”

    Unlike ESPN’s segment where “real” men read mean tweets to Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro.

  9. Avatar-Nate

    Good article with salient points throughout .

    Don’t quit riding until you have to ! .

    My full size bike is now a 1975 BMW R60/6, to me it’s small and under powered but still gets the job done, I’m off to ride the Norton Club’s annual NYE Morning ride in a moment .

    Truck drivers need to understand they’re using a privilege, sharing the roads with us, I used to drive a truck and enjoyed it, never blocked anyone nor failed to give road courtesy un asked .

    Those who travel will have seen much carnage caused by careless long haul truckers .


  10. AvatarCJinSD

    I’m convinced that peak internet was about twenty years ago. Suppose you were looking for tips on swapping a Conforti chip into your 1991 BMW 325i. Were you to type ’28-pin chip replacement in 1991 BMW ECU’ into the search engine of your choice, chances are the top results would have been from well-meaning people who had split a BMW ECU offering their experienced guidance on the issue in question. What would the top result be today? On google, it is a bunch of ads for BMW tuning chips. At least it is sort of relevant. A couple of the results even related to cars made in the decade of the year included in my search. I fully expected the top results to be new BMW lease deals and someone telling me I should have bought a Mustang.

    • Avatardejal

      Try a different search engine. I’m not being flippant. I code in C# for a living. When I need some info I use Google and not Bing. At least for C# Google is great and Bing is horrible. Weird things is, C# is a Microsoft language and Bing is owned by Microsoft.

      Result orders do vary in search engines. All the same results might come up, but they always don’t come up in the same order.

  11. AvatarCliff G

    Re: R&T. The magazine went downhill and never stopped the day Henry N. Manney III went down with a brain aneurysm. It is weird that R&T can continue to make money off you free and clear, but Disney can get Congress to continue their copyrights forever. Would Fantasia been done if Disney had to find Bach’s heirs and hand over to them a chunk of money? Bah.

  12. AvatarDuong Nguyen

    The easier solution to the truck problem is to make it illegal to pay truckers by the mile. Paying them by the hour would quickly get rid of guys passing in the left lane to “make up time”

    UPS truck drivers get paid hourly and they probably have the best safety record out of any trucking company…. It probably also helps that many UPS big rig drivers make over 100k a year and actually give a damn about keeping their job.

  13. AvatarNoID

    I have an honest question, not borne from a desire to assault your character but from my own desire to know: When you worked side-by-side with all these people at R&T whom you’re trashing today, did you pretend to like them personally or respect them professionally, or was your attitude there the same as it is here? Could it be on the other hand that you are speaking somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and as people who know you, they also know how to properly interpret your egotistical appreciation for your own work and contributions and your (apparent) disdainful dismissal of their own?

    Note that I’m not defending bad writing. One of my favorite quotes hangs on my cube wall, and I think of it every time I read something awful (far too often from the pages of our corporate, public blog): “The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering.” And yes, as I read the garbage we publish and recall my favorite quotation on the subject, it is with a near-religious conviction that I could do better if given the opportunity. So you don’t have the market cornered on arrogance, and I have no stones to throw from my soapbox house of cards and glass.

    I do however take com umbrage with the idea of pretending to enjoy the company and appreciate the contributions of people to their faces, then throwing them under the bus from a position of relative safety. I’m always polite and respectful, but if I don’t enjoy people or appreciate their contributions I won’t pretend otherwise just because they’re close enough to hit me.

    • AvatarNoID

      One last side comment, I go recognize as well that one can fully enjoy someone personally while recognizing that their contribution as a professional is less than acceptable. I suppose that could also be the case here. Probably a mixed basket, really.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      Couple of responses:

      0. Of all the faults and frailties I have on this earth, giving people the impression that I like or respect them when that isn’t the case — that’s not among them. Sometimes, to my sorrow, the reverse is true, with people thinking I dislike them when that’s not the case. Many of the best people from my R&T days are here with me at Hagerty. There were two people I wanted to hire who decided to stay with R&T, and I respect that choice.

      1. I’m writing with a bit of hyperbole here for amusement’s sake, but perhaps I should state my opinion honestly and without Hitchhiker’s Guide jokes: Were I in the shoes of the people who are currently running R&T, I’d want to stand on my own two feet instead of using Jack Baruth’s previously published work to keep the numbers up. We don’t republish at Hagerty because we don’t need to. I don’t have a lot of respect or affection for anyone who would rather re-run my work than write or commission something new.

      With that said, I know that they want to keep the lights on at R&T and they are being forced to do some distasteful things (like the “Experiences” where you can pay to hang out with the staff for a weekend) in order to do so. If republishing my work keeps them in business, or helps in any way, then I suppose I can’t be too angry about it.

      • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

        Early on in the taper days, someone asked Jerry Garcia how he felt about people trading tapes of Dead shows and he said something to the effect of “we put the music out there and what happens with it afterward we can’t control”.

        FWIW, I understand that he hated listening to recorded shows because he would hear what he was trying to play, not what he actually executed. One of my favorite Darkstar/China Cat/The Eleven medleys has a segue that would have been completely perfect had Garcia not muffed a note.

      • AvatarNoID

        OK, thanks for the response. So the people you enjoyed working with have jumped ship (many onto the decks at Hagerty), and the people named in your piece are the ineffectual holdouts/new blood/transfers that are driving the magazine into the sunset with one headlight.

  14. AvatarHarry

    “It’s a common trope of female Jalopnik writers to complain about the sexist hate mail they get. It’s their staunch belief that men don’t get hate mail, that it’s something very special which only happens to empowered female autojournalists who threaten the fragile masculinity of the people who pay their salaries by tirelessly clicking on all their Amazon Anker Powerbank Kinja Deals Of The Day.”

    My wife is a physician. She talks about misogynist coworkers (of higher or lower station) that make life miserable for the women who work there (specifically in a non “me too” way.) I have learned the hard way there is no point in arguing with her about this. It makes her feel better to think that person hates women. She is incapable of realizing that person is just an asshole to everyone and her male co-workers hate him too. Persistence of employment seems to be the determining factor. If that person is a murse, they disappear. If that person is a talented (specialty) with a medical degree, it is worth keeping them around despite the unpleasantness.

    Just as the number of people who think that (insert minority) are actual subhumans are fleetingly rare, the amount professionals who think women are inferior, or that people can be so categorized, are also fleetingly rare.

    Assholes, however, abound.

  15. AvatarWheeTwelve

    I’m afraid I cannot read your article about the trucks, as the link isn’t taking me anywhere. Apologies if you’ve covered what I’m about to write.
    In recent months, during my commute, I have been observing the traffic pattern on the Interstate. It’s amazing to me how the traffic “bunches up” around large trucks. Unless the traffic is very heavy, one can clearly observe “clumps” of traffic, clustered around one or more trucks.
    Thankfully, there are “express lanes” where trucks aren’t allowed. Though not free, these lanes are a wonderful place where one can enjoy driving a non-SUV, non-hybrid, non-electric, non-turbo-wheezer, with almost no other vehicles around. For the moment, trucks are not allowed on express lanes. Here’s to hoping that lasts.

    • AvatarGeorge Denzinger

      WRT to traffic clumping: I see something similar when driving on the Interstates also. It seems to me that many people don’t know how to drive. Not that they can’t operate a motor vehicle, which is really a different operation altogether. They can not (or will not) generate the mental effort to drive or navigate. They just attach themselves to something moving slightly faster than they are and relentlessly tailgate it until it’s time for their exit.

      This is nothing new; when driving with my wife’s middle brother 20+ years ago, he just wouldn’t drive his own drive; he just followed several different cars that were in front of him. While it annoyed me greatly, I survived it. Since then, I’ve come to believe these folks would be happy with autonomous vehicles, that way they wouldn’t even have to devote minimal mental energy to travel. If I’m honest, I’d rather these people rode the bus.

      • Avatar-Nate

        George ;

        I think you’ve summed things up very well .

        There used to be driver’s education in public High Schools, I was never able to get into it as the “cool” kids always filled it up and then yakked and smoked during the entire class and never passed the exams ….

        I believe those are the same Boomers who drive everyone crazy with their terrible driving now .

        My ex wife needed _EIGHT_ DMV road tests before they granted her a license, the fact that she ran stop signs and drove erratically had ‘_nothing_ to do with it’ , the DMV testers were all “! racist !” .

        Some folks simply don’t care .



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